What Happens To My SAR?


When you have made an internal suspicious activity report, it will be reviewed by and a decision concerning that report is made by the nominated officer (MLRO).

Before deciding to make a report to SOCA, the Nominated Officer will need access to all the business’s relevant records. The business must therefore, take reasonable steps to ensure its Nominated Officer has access to such information. This may include:

  • The financial circumstances of the customer or a person on whose behalf the customer is acting, and
  • The features of the transaction.

In addition, the Nominated Officer should:

  • Consider the level of identity information held on the customer and any information held on his personal circumstances that might be available to the business, and
  • Review other transaction patterns and volumes through the account and any other accounts in the same name.

The Nominated Officer should also take into consideration any additional risks where the customer is located outside the UK, particularly if the customer is located in a high-risk jurisdiction.

If the Nominated Officer decides not to make a report to SOCA, the reasons for not doing so should be clearly documented or recorded electronically, and retained with the internal suspicion report.

All filed SAR’s information are input onto the SOCA computer which is named ELMER, (this is named after the accountant form the ‘untouchables’ who helped get Al Capone convicted for tax evasion).

SOCA has a 7 day period for which they can access the SAR information for their own benefit. Information in ELMER can be ‘data mined’, that is small elements of the report can be crossed referenced to other SAR’s in the system, for instance by post code reference. For example, one recent case of SOCA centred around one 600sqm area of a postcode, where multiple SAR’s had been received from estate agents, solicitors and accountants. They managed to stop over 130 cases of mortgage fraud in a new development; each one had an accountant’s certificate as to income! In another case two SAR’s where linked by a common mobile phone number which in turn linked to over 2,500 reports covering a number of years, this exposed a joint Columbian and Afghan drugs syndicate.  What you may think is not very important may just help form part of a bigger picture.

After the 7 day period all SAR’s are then passed to the relevant police force on a postcode basis, where a dedicated SAR’s office review the information on the SAR, carries out a Police National Computer (PNC) check on the suspect(s) and cross references to local intelligence sources. Decisions on how to proceed are often mad e at this juncture.

If your SAR relates to tax evasion only it will be made available to HMRC Intelligence Team at Bristol where it is allocated between Special Civils Investigation Office Investigators or the SDS Financial Investigation unit. Here the information is analysed and where appropriate, an intelligence package is prepared and sent to the RIAT teams in preparation for enquiry caseworkers.

We may find that in many cases your SAR may never be used but just forms part of a larger intelligence picture concerning an individual.

If your SAR is used as part of or to start a criminal investigation, any criminal case law enforcement will never try to build a case on the evidence of a SAR only. The SAR would only be a starter point, you have given the answer, and all that is needed now is a different question to protect the source. All financial Intelligence Unit Investigation officers, for which there are only 2,500, are all trained in the use of SAR’s on how to keep the information secure, to ensure it stays that way. Whereas there never is a 100% guarantee over anything, for all intensive purposes your SAR will remain anonymous to all but the FIU investigators.